Magazine article Sunset

How to Win the War against Weeds

Magazine article Sunset

How to Win the War against Weeds

Article excerpt

Attack both annuals and perennials as soon as you can

If you were to compress all the advice written on weed control to a single maxim, it would be: Attack early in the game. Getting weeds out of the garden at the start of the season, when they're most vulnerable, is a smart strategy for two reasons: It keeps annual weeds from forming seed heads and it keeps perennial weeds from developing deeper roots.

The most important thing you can do is to prevent more seeds from developing. Here's why: Most weeds in your garden are annuals, and annual weeds are phenomenally prodigious seed producers. A single crabgrass plant, for example, can produce 100,000 seeds, according to Barbara Pleasant, author of The Gardener's Weed Book: Earth-Safe Controls (Storey Communications, North Adams, MA, 1996, $12.95; 800/441-5700). If you don't get rid of these intruders before they develop viable seeds, the number of foes you'll have to battle will increase every year, and you'll always be playing catch-up.

With perennial weeds, seeds aren't the only problem, since they produce fewer of them. Instead, perennials ensure their own survival by developing extensive underground root systems and/or sending out runners aboveground. If you catch them young, perennial weeds can usually be pulled out of the ground easily. But once established, they can be next to impossible to get rid of, as anyone who has battled Bermuda grass or yellow nutsedge in flower beds will attest.

Annuals: Off with their heads

To keep annuals from setting seed, weed early and often. Slicing off the top of the plant is all you have to do; there's no need to remove the roots. Many gardeners find that the most efficient tool for this task is some type of scuffle hoe, which cuts weeds at or just below the soil surface.

You can use the same off-with-their-heads approach to reduce the amount of annual weeds in a lawn. …

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